I purchased this book some while back because Pearson was described on the back cover as being neo-Faulknerian. This is a term I’d never heard before, but Faulkner is among my favourite authors, is probably my favourite American author. Neo-Faulknerian? How could you go wrong? As it turns out, you can’t, at least not if buying and reading a copy of Blue Ridge was the course of action you were contemplating. Going wrong, I suppose, would involve not doing those things. Pearson’s prose does not possess the same biblical slowness as Faulkner’s, but his South is very obviously the same South Faulkner wrote about. They also share the same dry, considered wit, often showing itself to great effect when the plot would seem to suggest other directions.
Blue Ridge is actually possessed of two plots that meet only briefly and somewhat superficially in the final pages. Two cousins, Ray and Paul Tatum, deputy sheriff and actuary respectively, both attempt to navigate murders and their consequences, Ray in Hogarth, Virginia, and Paul in New York City. Ray’s tale is simple and detective-like with the sort of suppressed fallout that can only really exist in the American South (a place so mythical that it deserves its own set of capital letters). I liked Ray and the unexpectedly erratic Kit Carson (no relation), and even the colourful collection of yokels and suitably provincial law enforcement personnel. Paul’s story likewise had its own set of colourful city-dwellers, but we had Paul himself as the narrator and so only his unattached, slightly superior fish-out-of-water observations to go on. Virtually no-one in his story was likable, not even Paul himself and especially not the two police detectives (who seemed to be doing their best Keystone Cops impressions), except of course for the polite but genuinely terrifying gangster Giles, who was incredibly charismatic.
There’s two other T.R. Pearson books floating around my apartment someplace, and expect to see them later in the year, as I doubt that I can keep my hands off of them for very long. Next is Courage My Love, by Sarah Dearing.